I’ve been sitting on this for a few weeks, not sure if posting it would make me seem whiny. But Wynne Leon’s blog post earlier this week is related, and it inspired me to say my own thoughts on the matter out loud, for better or worse.
Have you ever cooked a meal just for yourself? The dish may taste good and we may be proud of our efforts in making it, but in the end, it just isn’t that satisfying to do all that work just for one person.
What if the meal we cooked was for close family and friends? Or for a larger gathering? It’s much more satisfying to share our culinary efforts with those we love; to sit with them, sharing and enjoying the fruits of our labor.
It’s much better than cooking a meal from scratch just for ourselves.
But what if we made this meal for a dinner gathering and nobody came? Worse yet, what if they did come, but didn’t eat because they had been snacking all day long?
How would we feel then, as the person who made something to share with everyone, but nobody wanted it?
This is what life can be like for creatives. We can be like the cook who worked up their best entree, only to have it spoil and go rotten because nobody ate.
Have you ever written a blog that nobody read? Have you ever released music that nobody took time to listen to? Have you ever painted a piece of art or made a craft that nobody bothered to notice?
When I do something creative, I always hope it will be enjoyed, valued or appreciated by others. That’s part of the reason I make the work in the first place. Sure, it’s important to satisfy one’s own creative urges, express the self, etc., but just like our chef and his meal for one, it’s just not a very satisfying experience. Art is meant to be seen, paintings viewed, novels read, music heard, clothing worn, food eaten. And those who make those things often want their work to somehow help those that engage with it; to help them deal with life, or to momentarily distract them from it. In a way, creatives want their work to nourish like a shared meal would.
However, that doesn’t mean that we should expect that appreciation to happen. It often doesn’t.
The tough thing is that no matter how many times we remind ourselves that this appreciation may not come, it still hurts a lot when our project yields little/no response from our closest friends and family. What did they think of the meal we made? Did they even taste it?
Making these situations worse is the creative’s almost constant need to promote. Our jobs aren’t like regular jobs. In many cases we don’t just “do the thing” and then get paid for it. We have to do the thing, then promote it, and then maybe get paid for it. Friends of creators have an extra role to play in the creative’s life because the creative needs a little help to get that ball rolling, to grease the wheels of publicity and promotion to help them advance their project.
Is it the friend’s responsibility to involve themselves in the creative’s career like this? You could easily argue that the answer is no.
But here’s an argument for why the answer might be yes. People talk about showing up for their friends and being there for them in the big moments; graduations, personal crisis, promotions, etc.. For artists and creatives, those big moments include the release of new work. We might celebrate our business friend’s new job by going out to dinner, but did we spend any time reading our author friend’s new book, or listening to our musician friend’s new album, or going to our painter friend’s exhibition?
As a whole, I don’t think creatives are looking for a giant parade down Main Street. We just want you take a few bites of the meal we prepared.
It’s difficult these days to get paid for creative things like recorded music, visual art, blogs, books and so on. The best most of us hope for is that our work will at least be seen, read, or heard. But when those important to us don’t participate, it can make us feel unsupported, devalued and disrespected.
It’s a difficult situation. Personally, I want both to continue creating things and also to not resent what can feel like a lack of support. All things considered (time, effort, expense, etc.), I’m just not sure that creating for my pleasure only is enough to keep the work flowing.
Many, many thanks to all of those who support their creative friends, engage with their work, and “share the meal”. Your support is invaluable!
Follow Wise & Shine for more stories from our great team of writers. More of Todd’s writing can be found at his Five O’Clock Shadow blog. You can listen to Todd’s new jazz album here, or follow his musical life at toddfulginiti.com.